photo by West Point via Flickr
Large scale cyber breaches containing sensitive government information are more common than ever before, and their frequency, according to PEW research, is forecasted to trend upwards.
Below are four significant breaches of government information in the past five years, what they mean, and what those behind them might be hoping to gain.
In 2011 one the U.S.’s Department of Defense’s biggest aerospace contractors, Lockheed Martin, was the subject of a major security breach in which details about military jets like the F-35 were stolen. Though the perpetrators were never made totally clear, experts believe the hack was carried out by Chinese spies.
Two years later in 2013 a hack was attributed to Chinese intelligence, and a myriad of sensitive military information were absconded with.
Members of the Senate’s computers were hacked in 2011 by a guerilla hacking group called Lulz Security, or LulzSec. Though no sensitive information was stolen by the group, experts pointed out that since LulzSec had access on the administrator level, they could have easily gained access to other networks and therefore more sensitive information.
The White House
In late October 2014, computers at the White House suffered an unclassified security breach by what was thought to by Russian hackers.
Though the source was never confirmed, according to The Washington Post, White House officials believe the cyber attack was “consistent with a state sponsored campaign” of Russian origins.
An investigation by the Senate Armed Services Committee revealed that from 2012 to 2013 there were at least 20 instances of Chinese intrusion into networks of civilian transportation companies hired by the U.S. government.
According to The Guardian, these cyber incursions include nine accounts of Chinese hackers breaking into defense contractors’ computers on commercial ships and even uploading malicious malware into an airlines’ systems.
Officials reported that hackers were able to pilfer user accounts, passwords, and emails.
As indicated by the list above, Russia and China continue to be the two biggest perpetrators of cyber breaches against the U.S. Though a revamped piece of cyber security legislation may be imminent, current cyber defense has consistently failed to do its job.
U.S. cyber command director Keith Alexander has even gone on record, stating that the current U.S. cyber security infrastructure ranks about a 3 out of 10.
According to a report (pdf) by Senator Tom Coburn, a shocking four in ten cyber breaches go unreported.
Government data isn’t the only information compromised by rampant cyber breaches.
According to the Government Accountability Office, security breaches of federal organizations which involve personally identifiable information (PII), a category that may include sensitive data like social security numbers, or home and IP addresses, has increased by 140 percent between 2009 to 2013.
If it seems like the U.S. is unprepared for cyber attacks by foreign countries, that’s because, by the admission of the U.S. Head of Cyber Command himself, we are.